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Did Sacramento have a 'normal' water year?

Fall starts Thursday after summer ended with a splash

Raindrops cover a ripening pomegranate as the tree's foliage begins to show its autumn color.

Raindrops cover a ripening pomegranate as the tree's foliage begins to show its autumn color. Debbie Arrington

Who would have guessed? Our weird water year is coming to a soggy close.

Thursday (Sept. 22) marks the first day of fall, the start of a new season but the wrap-up of our water year – 12 months of seasonal moisture.

After the driest spring in Sacramento history and a bone-dry summer, Sacramento may actually have nearly normal totals for our 2021-22 water year, which ends Sept. 30.

Summer departed with an unexpected splash as thunderstorms rolled over the region. Including Monday’s downpours, Sacramento has collected 17.55 inches since Oct. 1, 2021. That’s 97% of average (18.14 inches) for a Sacramento water year.

That total is deceiving: Most of this water year’s moisture fell last October and December. Other than major rain events in those two months, storm systems have been sporadic at best. That’s left soil (and plant life) extremely dry.

So even though the overall numbers don’t look so bad, we’re still in a drought.

Our unusual September storm system delivered a lot of rain to some parts of the Sacramento region but hardly a trickle in others.

“The hit or miss nature of these storms means some areas saw a lot of rain and others didn't see much at all,” says the Sacramento office of the National Weather Service.

On Monday, Sacramento International Airport received 1.01 inches while Downtown Sacramento received only 0.37. Davis recorded 2.95 inches while Stockton rainfall measured just 0.07 inches.

Normal for our region for the first two weeks on September: 0.06 inches.

Tuesday and Wednesday, more spotty storms soaked some areas while skirting others. Rain totals differed from one neighborhood to the next. (My own backyard rain gauge in Sacramento’s Pocket neighborhood measures more than 2 inches from this week.)

How can you tell if your landscape got enough water?

Check soil with a moisture meter to see if your ground soaked up some of that free water. Or just look – and feel. Take a 6-inch trowel and dig; does the soil look dark and moist a few inches below the surface? If soil won’t clump in your hand, it needs more water.

Areas under protection – from big evergreen trees or structures – may have gotten less moisture from these storms. Check those spots, too.

If your landscape got a good soaking, take advantage of this storm and give your sprinklers a break. Turn off your irrigation system. For every inch of rain, wait a week to irrigate.

For more on local weather and rain totals:

https://www.weather.gov/sto/.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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